Zenith Elite Classic 39 — Hands-on and Up-close
TimeCaptain wrote about our visit at Bijouterie Dominic in Montreal’s Little Italy. They are the only authorized dealer in Quebec to carry the brand with a star and having only one location, it is THE place in Montreal to have access to the latest Zenith models. If TimeCaptain fell for the El Primero Range Rover, me, I have a soft spot for the Elite collection and every time I visit this boutique, I would take the opportunity to have a closer look at them. There were two watches that really caught my eye: the new Elite Chronograph Classic 42 in stainless steel with smoked dial and the Elite Classic 39, also in stainless steel and with a smoked dial — two watches oozing elegance and sophistication. Especially the Elite Classic 39 with its simple three-hands setup giving the main role to the smoked finish of the dial, it just looks like a masterpiece.
39 mm is a new diameter for the Elite Classic, a lot smaller than the 2015 model that was 42 mm. At 9.45 mm, the height stayed pretty much the same, a thin profile that was conceived to be worn under a shirt. By looking at the profile of the watch, I would estimate that more than 2 mm of the total height comes from the protruding domed sapphire crystal, which complements nicely the rounded shape of the case.
Let me take a break from the technical specifications for a moment because I have to warn you, there will be a few spoilers in this review — surprises that probably Zenith wanted to keep only for the owners. I’m talking about tiny details, often hidden, that contribute to the luxury status of the Elite Classic. Even if we would make abstraction from the movement inside, I will talk later about it, only the case and the dial already denote excellence and high-end craftsmanship. It is absolutely fascinating how Zenith manages to create a luxury watch while focusing on the essential and eliminating everything else. Isn’t this the definition of minimalism? As a watch blogger, I get bombarded with emails and offers from people who want to make a quick buck with a minimalist watch on Kickstarter, the Alibaba junks that “reinvent luxury”. Yes, those are minimalist watches too, they have minimum imagination and minimum quality. If I would compare the Elite Classic to these minimalist watches, it would be like comparing a Mark Rothko, or a Yves Klein with my freshly painted veranda — it is light years away.
For example, if we look at the case and the lugs, they are polished, the crown has a decent size, winding the watch or adjusting the time is super-smooth — so far there are no surprises. Then, we turn around the watch and boom, we are facing a complex architecture. The case back looks like it was assembled from several pieces, although I think it’s only an illusion. The base is sandblasted, while the part where the screws fasten it to the case is slightly raised and polished — the ideal background for engraving. The effect is superb, almost like a sophisticated passe-partout to a painting, in this case to the gorgeous calibre Elite 679.
The smoked dial is breathtaking! Don’t look at the official picture on the Zenith website, it doesn’t do any justice to the watch. It all depends on the light, sometimes the smoked, colour gradient effect is more visible, sometimes the dark grey has a warm, almost brownish hue, it’s never the same. The source of magic it’s not only the colour gradient or the slight curve of the dial at its edges, it is also the hint of sunray texture on its surface, one of the most delicate sunray finished dials I’ve seen.
Our lazy eyes can easily trick us at first. Only at a more careful inspection will we realize that the indexes are not applied, but actually carved out from the dial. The tiny minute marks, ZENITH at 12 and Swiss Made at 6 o’clock are printed with white, while the star in the Zenith logo is the only applied detail on the entire dial. You can’t escape from it, it will catch you eye no matter what, the effect is thrilling!
The long, delicate feuille hands are perfect companions to the indexes. As with other detail of this watch, we can only admire their perfection even at very close range. The Zenith Elite Classic is the kind of watch that should be sold with a loupe to enjoy to the fullest everything that comes with it.
With the new size there comes also a new calibre, the Elite 679 replacing the Elite 6150, both in-house movements. While the previous movement had 100-hours of power reserve thanks to its two barrels, the 679 has only one barrel that will provide 50-hours of juice, still a respectable performance.
It comes with a black alligator strap that has a protective rubber lining and another little secret that I discovered while strapping it on. The pin-buckle is decorated with a star, but if you take a closer look at it, the back too is engraved with the Zenith star. Details that express the highest level of attention and care from Zenith.
On the wrist it’s needless to say, it feels great and with this new size, it will fit everyone and when I say everyone, I mean it. I can imagine the Elite Classic as the first serious watch you would give as a gift to a teenager. It’s marketed as a gent’s watch, but it would look gorgeous on a lady too — who said that women can’t wear anything bigger than 36 mm. And of course, the gentleman who prefers to keep things simple and stylish.
At CA$6,300, the Zenith Elite Classic 39 is not a cheap watch, without being expensive. The price is actually right, considering the watch you get for the money and it is comparable or even more affordable than other watches of this quality. Think Glashutte Original Sixties — about the same price, or the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin 41, which is more than CA$9,000.
This hands-on review was made possible thanks to Bijouterie Dominic.
6810 St Laurent Blvd., Montreal, QC H2S 3C7
Phone: (514) 274-8015